Former Labour MP Philip Sciberras was granted a privileged pension reserved for MPs despite the Treasury objecting that he had not served in Parliament for the required period of time.

Dr Sciberras is a former judge who retired from the bench in 2010. He had become an MP for Labour half way through the 1976 legislature in a casual election held to fill the seat vacated by former minister Guze’ Abela. He was re-elected in 1981 but missed a seat in the following general election of 1987.

In 2013, soon after Labour was returned to power, Dr Sciberras applied to receive a pension under the Members of Parliament Pensions Act.

However, after studying his application based on the amount of time Dr Sciberras had spent serving as an MP, the Treasury told him that he was not eligible because he did not satisfy the requirements at law.

According to the law, enacted in 1979 under the Premiership of Labour’s Dom Mintoff, MPs need to spend two legislatures, or a minimum of 65 months, to qualify for an MP’s pension.

The Treasury did not accept the argument made by Dr Sciberras that he qualified because of his stint as an MP from 1979 to 1981. He also argued that the time between the dissolution of Parliament and the start of another legislature should be counted in his favour.

The Treasury stuck to its objection during a meeting held at the Speaker’s office in 2014, according to sources.

However, the government overruled the Treasury and ordered it to issue Dr Sciberras with an MP’s pension.

Sources close to the Treasury told The Sunday Times of Malta that it was obvious that pressure was brought to bear so that the special pension could be issued.

Treasury officials could not understand why the retired judge had waited until Labour was returned to power to make his claim when, if he was entitled to an MP’s pension, it would have come into effect in 2010 when he turned 65 and retired from the bench.

The government also instructed that Dr Sciberras be paid thousands in arrears

Apart from ordering the issue of an MP’s pension in 2014, the government also instructed that Dr Sciberras be paid thousands of euros in arrears to cover the period when he would have been receiving the pension.

The retired judge is also eligible to another special pension, this time reserved for former members of the judiciary, which came into effect in 2016. This apart from his ‘normal’ national insurance pension.

The Sunday Times of Malta has not managed to confirm whether he is now receiving three pensions. When contacted, he did not wish to reply to any questions.

Questions sent to the Family Ministry, responsible for pensions, were not replied to by the time of writing.

The controversial issue of golden pensions reserved for the political class came to the fore last week when the Opposition withdrew its support for a Bill proposed by Labour to grant MPs the pension even if they have spent only one term in Parliament.

Following the PN’s decision, the government withdrew the Bill and said it would not continue to push for it.

Unlike ‘normal’ citizens, who receive a State pension of up to €12,000 a year irrespective of their annual salary upon retirement – and the majority receive much less – MPs who have served for two terms receive an uncapped pension based on the current salary of an MP.

For those who have served in high political office, such as former presidents, prime ministers, ministers and speakers, the pension they get is two-thirds of the salary received by current occupants of those posts, increasing every year.

A former president of Malta, for example, currently receives a pension of over €40,000 a year and a former minister more than €31,000. Widows inherit the same pension.

Former parliamentarians are also entitled to a ‘normal’ contributory national insurance pension, boosting their income by at least €500 a month.

Years of service do not apply to former ministers. Those who have served on the Cabinet for only few months, like Labour’s Joe Brincat and Joe Micallef Stafrace in the 1970s, are still entitled to receive a pension based on the current salary of a serving minister or of an MP who served as minister for 10 years and over.

Some recipients of the golden pension are still active politicians in important and well-paid roles. For example, Energy Minister Joe Mizzi is receiving a €31,000 pension over and above his ministerial salary while European Commissioner Karmenu Vella receives the golden pension over and above his €20,000-a-month salary from the EU. The same applies for Malta’s member of the European Court of Auditors, Leo Brincat.

MEP Alfred Sant, a former prime minister, and MEP Francis Zammit Dimech, a former minister, top up their €8,000-a-month salary with a lucrative MP’s pension, while former European Commissioners Joe Borg and John Dalli also receive a pension from Brussels as well as their pensions as former ministers.

Golden pensions paid to politicians in 2017

Former Presidents of Malta
Maria Tabone widow 33,783
Ugo Mifsud Bonnici 40,540
Eddie Fenech Adami 40,540
Violet De Marco widow 33,783
George Abela 40,540
Edwidge Xuereb widow 26,532
   
Former Prime Ministers
Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici (PL) 29,665
Alfred Sant (PL) 36,203
Lawrence Gonzi (PN) 36,203
   
Current Ministers/Appointees to EU
Joe Mizzi (PL) 31,866
Karmenu Vella (PL) 31,866
Leo Brincat (PL) 31,866
Francis Zammit Dimech (PN) 31,866
   
Former Ministers
Wistin Abela (PL) widow 26,555
John Attard Montalto (PL) 31,866
George Bonello Dupuis (PN) widow 26,555
Josef Bonnici (PN) 25,138
Joe Borg (PN) 17,880
Joe Brincat (PL) 22,036
Reno Calleja (PL) 20,458
Dolores Cristina (PN) 30,272
John Dalli (PN) 31,866
Joe Debono Grech (PL) 31,866
Louis Deguara (PN) 31,866
Michael Falzon (PN) 31,866
Noel Farrugia (PL) 31,866
Joe Fenech (PN) widow 26,091
Michael Frendo (PN) 31,866
ÄŠensu Galea (PN) 31,866
Louis Galea (PN) 31,866
Austin Gatt (PN) 31,866
Lawrence Gatt (PN) 31,866
Patrick Holland (PL) widow 26,555
George Hyzler (PN) widow 22,787
Charles Mangion (PL) 24,091
Daniel Micallef (PL) 29,454
Freddie Micallef (PL) widow 26,555
Vincent Moran (PL) 31,866
Philip Muscat (PL) widow 26,555
Daniel Piscopo (PL) widow 26,555
Alfred Portelli (PL) 31,866
Michael Refalo (PN) widow 26,555
Lorry Sant (PL) widow 26,555
Alex Sciberras Trigona (PL) 25,138
Joseph Spiteri (PN) widow 26,555
Lino Spiteri (PL) widow 26,555
Anton Tabone (PN) 31,866
George Vella (PL) 31,866
Ninu Zammit (PN) 31,866

*Amounts in euros

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